Everyone’s experienced acute pain, the temporary pain that occurs to let us know something’s wrong – the pain of a bee sting, a broken bone, or a cold. While it can feel plenty bad in the moment, acute pain goes away. As the body heals, the pain will subside.
Chronic pain doesn’t go away so easily. It persists. For the 100 million people in the United States suffering from chronic pain, experiencing pain every day takes a huge toll on their lives – their ability to work, spend quality time with loved ones, and enjoy all the things they used to get out of life. If you or someone you love is one of the 100 million, you know how much is at stake.
Chronic pain can have many causes, which makes it extremely difficult to effectively diagnose and treat, meaning that those who live with it may see no end in sight. Even if you feel powerless about getting rid of the pain entirely, you can find techniques and methods to make it easier to live with.
Tips for Living with Chronic Pain
1. Stay in open communication with your doctor.
It’s ok (and often good) to consider solutions beyond prescribed painkillers, but it’s always important to keep your doctor apprised of the situation. Just because something they recommended didn’t work doesn’t mean they failed you or aren’t on your side. By giving them regular updates on what’s working (and what’s not) they’ll have more information to make a better diagnosis and help you find the best solution.
Meditation and deep breathing techniques help your body to relax. For many people that have tried a number of other options for dealing with their pain unsuccessfully, meditation turns out to be the thing that makes a difference. It may sound like a placebo, but there are scientific studies backing up the idea that meditation can make a big difference in the levels of pain people experience.
Finding the energy and incentive to actually get up and exercise when you’re in a lot of pain is hard. Most people don’t want to put any extra strain on their body when they’re hurting. But exercise releases endorphins that both serve to improve mood and minimize pain. Talk to your doctor or a trainer to figure out an exercise routine that won’t do anything to exacerbate the pain. If you can pull yourself off the couch and get into an exercise routine, you should start to feel your pain decrease.
Look for a support group.
You know the pain’s not in your head, but people that don’t experience chronic pain won’t ever quite get what you’re going through. Even your most supportive family members may have a hard time knowing how to help. Finding other people struggling with the same issue will give you someone to talk to who gets it and provide an opportunity to hear what’s working for other people to minimize their pain and live with it more successfully.
Research treatment programs.
While the pain you feel is physical, some of the best ways to deal with it are often psychological. See if there are any pain management programs in your area that can help equip you with the habits and coping mechanisms that can make your pain easier to manage day by day.
See a therapist.
Chronic pain often causes depression and then depression makes the pain worse. On top of the pain itself, many people suffering from chronic pain get caught up in this dangerous cycle. You need to treat the emotional fallout from the pain as much as you do the pain itself. Look for a good therapist to help you work through how the pain’s influencing your life and avoid the hopelessness that often accompanies it.
None of these solutions may seem ideal – they won’t make the pain just go away and they require some work, commitment, and often come with a cost. When you think about how much your chronic pain is taking from you and what a difference it can make to stop letting it control your life, the work and cost should be easy to justify.